Pfizer and BioNTech, which have partnered in the past to develop influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, will once again work together to develop a shingles vaccine. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Pfizer and BioNTech announced plans Wednesday to partner to develop an mRNA vaccine to protect against shingles.
The companies said they plan to use the same antigen and mRNA technologies in their COVID-19 vaccine to create the vaccine for shingles, also known as herpes zoster.
Shingles vaccines already exist -- a recombinant subunit vaccine called Shingrix, developed by GlaxoSmithKline, and a now-discontinued attenuated vaccine called Zostavax, developed by Merck.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be the first to use mRNA technology.
"The collaboration aims to develop a new mRNA-based vaccine against shingles, leveraging the expertise and resources of both companies," said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech.
"Adults aged 50 years and older, as well as vulnerable populations like cancer patients, are at an increased risk of shingles. Our goal is to develop an mRNA vaccine with a favorable safety profile and high efficacy, which is at the same time more easily scalable to support global access," Sahin said.
Shingles is the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox and thereafter lives dormant inside the body.
It causes a painful, itchy rash, usually on one side of the body, as well as headache and sensitivity to light, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People with weak immune systems or are over age 60 are most likely to develop shingles.
As part of the agreement between the two companies, the New York City-based Pfizer will pay BioNTech $225 million, which includes an equity investment of $150 million.
BioNTech, based in Mainz, Germany, will pay Pfizer $25 million for its proprietary antigen technology.
Clinical trials of the shingles vaccine are expected to begin in the second half of 2022.